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Industry Insight – An Interview With The C64 Orchestra

Published January 3, 2009 by |

Some of our older readers may have some great memories of their days with the Commodore 64. One of the longest lasting aspects of the era has been the music, which is as distinct and rich today as it was twenty years ago. Back in the day, composers like Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Chris Huelsbeck and Jeroen Tel cut their teeth on the C64’s SID chip and produced some of the finest game music ever made. We recently got the chance to chat with Rob Kramer, the artistic director of dutch production company Productiehuis ON, who have brought some of the best loved tunes from games like Monty on the Run and Myth into a fully-fledged orchestral environment.

GameBrit: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?
Rob Kramer: Productiehuis ON is a small government funded cultural organisation in the eastern part of Holland. Our goal is to create ONusual stuff for normal people. We do run about 6-8 different productions per year in a wide variety of styles and disciplines. We do sell over 150 shows per year. Some of our productions will only perform in the Netherlands but for example the C64 orchestra, NO blues and Kytemans Hiphop Orchestra do tour all over Europe.

GB: How long has the Ricciotti Ensemble been around?
RK: The Ricciotti Ensemble has been around since the early seventies as a ‘street’ orchestra with around 40 students. Their goal has always been to take classical music to places where it normally isn’t played and heared. Open air, prisons, rock venues, malls etc. They tour all over Europe.

GB: What prompted you to start the C64 Orchestral project?
RK: Productiehuis ON was approached by Jeroen Tel and Julian Aalders (micro music & vj of the C64 orchestra) if we were interested in the possibilities of orchestral version of the original C64 game tracks. Although a very complicated project we decided to give it a try, also because I am old enough to have started my computer career on a c64 and played a lot of games on it. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling and I knew the artistic potential of the original music.

GB: Are any of the musicians fans of games?
RK: The musicians are way too young to have played the C64, but they are great fans of the music.

GB: Which C64 composers have been involved with the Orchestra?
RK: Rob Hubbard and Jeroen Tel, Rob Hubbard did all the arrangements for the cd himself.

GB: What were your favourite tunes to work with?
RK: Myth and Rubicon. Rubicon is a different arrangement. It is not done by Rob Hubbard but by the violin player of the C64 orchestra Ben Mathot. I think it is different and great.

GB: Are there any other C64 composers you would like to work with?
RK: We would love to work with Martin Galway, Kurt Heiden, Larry Holland, etc. But getting the rights of the music and arranging the music for an orchestra, consumes a lot of time and money. Not to mention rehearsing and recording the music.

GB: Will you be sticking to C64 music in the future or will you branch out to cover music from other formats from the same era, like Spectrum, Amiga or NES?
RK: Although there is enough good C64 music available to get 10 more cd’s out there, it is tempting to branch out to e.g. amiga. The situation right now is that we need to go break even on this project, before we can invest in new projects of this sort. So please keep buying our cd, it is expensive, but worth every penny.

GB: Are your fans mainly in Europe or have you had interest from people in other parts of the world?
RK: C64 lovers are to be found from Korea to Brazil and from Finland to Canada. We have shipped RUN 10 to almost every continent! Also the comments on our myspace indicate that the C64 fan base is worldwide. A short docu has recently been broadcasted on Current TV, a big cable station in the USA. The footage can be found on our myspace page.

GB: Will you be bringing your performances to other countries like the UK?
RK: We would love to bring it to the UK. Touring with the orchestra, vj’s, sound engineers, etc doesn’t come cheap.

GB: Have you thought about joining forces with VideoGames Live for one of their performances?
RK: We would love to, they run a very cool show! But there is no connection yet.

GB: Where can our readers get a hold of a copy of your first CD, RUN 10?
RK: More info and video footage on our productions is available @ www.ONinternet.nl or you can check out www.myspace.com/c64orchestra. You can also find a lot of video footage, interviews and other stuff like very cool c64 t-shirts.

C64 Orchestra

We would like to thank Rob Kramer and Maike Fleuren at Pruductiehuis On for taking the time to speak to us and we wish them all the best in the New Year. Some of the titles featured in the C64 orchestra can be found on the Wii’s Virtual Console, so if you are too young to have played them when they first came out, check out Cybernoid and International Karate+ to see what you’ve missed out on.